Political News

Democrats and Republicans face off in race to win Katie Hill's House seat

Posted March 3, 2020 8:03 a.m. EST

— Katie Hill's decision to step down from Congress amid controversy last year set off a competitive race to see who will take her place -- a race that could be decided on Tuesday when voters head to the polls in California.

On March 3, the same day that Golden State voters pick their candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, residents of the state's 25th Congressional District will also be voting in a special election primary to decide who will serve out the rest of Hill's term.

The race for the 25th district, which includes parts of northern Los Angeles County, has now become a competitive battleground with Democrats hoping to keep the seat in their hands while Republicans hope to win it back.

Twelve candidates -- six Democrats and six Republicans -- are competing in the special election primary.

If any candidate wins a majority of the vote, or more than 50%, that candidate will win the seat outright and hold it for the remainder of what would have been the former congresswoman's first term in office.

However, if none of the candidates secures a majority of the vote, then the top two candidates with the most votes will advance to a runoff in the special general election that will take place on May 12.

Frontrunners include Democrat Christy Smith and Republicans Steve Knight and Mike Garcia.

Smith is a member of the California state assembly and has been endorsed by a number of high-profile Democrats, including California Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of House Democratic leadership.

Knight previously held the congressional seat, but lost to Hill in 2018 when she flipped the seat from red to blue. Prior to that, he represented the district in Congress since 2015. Knight has been endorsed by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy in his bid to retake the seat.

Garcia, a former US Navy officer, has been endorsed by the Los Angeles County Republican Party.

Making matters more complicated is the fact that on Tuesday, March 3, there will also be a separate primary race to decide who will advance to the general election that will determine who will serve out the next full term for the congressional seat. The top two vote-getters in that primary will advance to the general election on November 3.

Smith, Knight and Garcia are all running in both the special election as well as the full-term primary.

As a result, some campaigns are trying to get the word out that supporters will need to vote not once, but twice, for the candidate of their choice if that candidate is on both ballots.

Kunal Atit, deputy campaign manager for Smith, told CNN in a statement that their campaign has "run a robust education effort," involving digital advertising and outreach to voters through mailings and face-to-face canvassing, "highlighting the fact that they will need to vote twice for Christy, once for the special election and once for the general election primary."

"As our campaign likes to say, for once in their lives, they will need to vote twice," Atit said.

There are several additional candidates vying to represent the district whose entry into the race has attracted attention as well.

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with individuals tied to Russia during the 2016 campaign, is running as a Republican candidate in the full-term primary election.

Cenk Uygur, who has built a following around his popular progressive talk show "The Young Turks" is running as a Democratic candidate in both the special election and full-term election primary.

Uygur has been the subject of controversy as dozens of problematic statements and videos have been unearthed from his past. As he launched his bid for Congress, Uygur disavowed some of those past comments, saying his views have changed.

He told CNN's Chris Cuomo last year that he had deleted past insensitive posts about women because they don't reflect who he is years later.

Adding to the controversy, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed Uygur last year only to later walk it back. Following a backlash, Uygur announced that he would not be accepting any endorsements and Sanders said in a statement of his own that he was retracting the endorsement.

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